Brandon author writes about two special llamas

‘Muffy and Tuffy Find a Home’ based on a Miniota farm setting

Author Sheila Taylor (left to right), Danielle Hubbard, director of the Western Manitoba Regional Library, and Meagan Jaska, who illustrated the book.

In our hectic lives, it can be all too easy to take things for granted and forget just how much we have to be thankful for: the love of family, the support of friends, and the sheer beauty of the world around us.

Recapturing the sense of wonder that was hers as a child, a new-found children’s book author calling Brandon home is learning again that kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.

Sheila Taylor, a retired physiotherapist, working mainly with pre-school children, drew inspiration for her first book titled Muffy and Tuffy Find a Home when a close friend and her husband, Judy and Blair Kidd of Miniota, got a pair of llamas to protect their cattle from predators.

Llamas are better suited to guard livestock than any other guard animal. Although llamas may initially be more expensive, they end up costing less over their working lifetimes, guarding alpacas, sheep, goats, poultry and cattle, where the story of two special llamas – a mother and young son – was born.

Driving out to Miniota for a visit, Taylor was warned of not going too close to their special guard animals, as while llamas are sweet animals they won’t hesitate to spit, used to warn an aggressor away. Remembering back, a city gal in a country setting, who wrote poems and fun songs for many years, was enriched.

“Judy had many tales about the llamas over the years. Since I enjoyed hearing about them, I decided to put them to verse,” stated Taylor. “The pair is long since gone and Judy and Blair don’t run cattle anymore, but I still have two other stories in verse, just sitting in a folder.”

Meant for preschoolers and early-age schoolchildren, her first book features illustrations by Meagan Jaska, a young teenager at the time, who totally surprised Taylor of the drawings produced. Turning 16 this year, her grandma, Chris Jaska, suggested it would be nice to have the book printed, and now a little 12-page feature is available.

“The feedback I have had is that the children really enjoy it. It is meant to be entertaining but also to reinforce the idea that friends come in all shapes, sizes, and colours,” Taylor said. “Meagan’s illustrations are simple and the children really respond to them.”

Not looking at herself as a true author, Taylor, the mother of three, had the pleasure of reading the Dr. Seuss books to her children with One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish being a favourite. As a child, she too had books that were done in verse, and if no one would read them to her, she would read them to herself, as she knew the rhymes by heart.

Muffy and Tuffy, the featured llamas, lived out their lives at Parkisimo Farm, and the story takes young and old on a remarkable trip of how a new-found pair of animals gained the confidence of other barnyard animals including a special horse named Ben.

In the range of 60 books have been printed thus far. Taylor shared they are for sale but at this time no decision has been made on what avenue will be taken, adding, “For those who wish to purchase one, the Jaska family, the Kidds, and herself all have copies.”

Taylor, who welcomed plenty of preschool children to her workspace at the Brandon General Hospital, and as part of an outreach team which visited children in the Westman area in their homes, daycares or preschools, feels she had the ‘best’ job and met the nicest people around. Missing the children in her life today, Taylor feels writing this story was her way of keeping them close.

Every new friend is a new adventure – the start of more memories – as this one-of-a-kind heartfelt and delightful book explores and teaches barnyard friends come in all shapes and sizes.

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